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Mission

The Harvard University South Asia Institute (SAI) engages faculty and students through interdisciplinary programs to advance and deepen the teaching and research on global issues relevant to South Asia. 

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Upcoming Events


Tue, March 31, 2015 from 06:30pm - 08:00pm  /  CGIS South, S050

Transnational Urbanism and Post-colonial Challenges Planning and design processes under the aegis of transnational organizations: case studies in India and in the South-East Asia region

Urbanization Seminar

Speaker: Maristella Casciato, Associate Director, Research – Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), Montreal.

Chair: Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

The lecture Transnational Urbanism and Post-colonial Challenges sheds light on the complex processes of decolonization after WWII, which ushered in a new obligation for recently-formed countries to oversee the social and material welfare of their people. While nations independently responded to these issues, a variety of global actors intervened, crossing political, economic, and social boundaries to pioneer methods in territorial planning, as well as urban and architectural design.

With the end of WWII in Western countries and the violent struggles for independence across large regions in East Asia, the Mediterranean, and Sub-Saharan Africa, a transnational planning and design expertise emerged that operated within networks far more diverse than those of the colonial era. Planners, urban designers, architects, and engineers transitioned towards broader transnational practices, designated by terms such as “technical assistance” and “development aid,” whose strong paternalistic agenda was at the time discreetly endorsed. Within this multi-layered scenario, missions, reports, and projects commissioned by transnational organizations, such as the United Nations, and NGOs such as the Ford Foundation and Red Cross, in addition to state-owned planning offices and companies, took place against the backdrop of the Cold War. Well-known urban planners including Constantinos Doxiadis, Otto Koenigsberger, Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry, Le Corbusier, Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, Albert Mayer, and Michel Écochard were important players in these complex transnational planning and design processes. An aperçu of these issues was presented in the exhibition I curated with Tom Avermaete, How architects, experts, politicians, international agencies and citizens negotiate modern planning: Casablanca Chandigarh, which was displayed in the CCA galleries between November 2013 and April 2014.
Grounded on such a weaving of technical knowledge, managerial skills, and political visions, case studies from the new Punjabi capital, known as Chandigarh, to Etawah rural projects in India, to missions in Karachi and Islamabad, will be discussed with new original documents from fresh research work.

Co-sponsored with the India GSD.

START
Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 06:30pm

END
Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 08:00pm

VENUE
CGIS South, S050
Harvard University

ADDRESS
1730 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA

Tue, March 31, 2015 from 04:00pm - 06:00pm  /  CGIS South, S030

Digital Archives and Public History: Documenting and Exhibiting South Asian American Stories

SAI and MIT-India present: Lecture Series: South Asia and Its Diasporas

Samip Mallick, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the South Asian American Digital Archive

Pawan Dhingra, Founding Curator of the Smithsonian Institution exhibition: Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation Professor and Director, Department of Sociology, Tufts University

Moderated by Vivek Bald, 2014-15 Harvard University Charles Warren Center Fellow Associate Professor of Comparative Media Studies & Writing, MIT

Samip Mallick, co-founder and director of the first extensive public digital archive documenting the stories and histories of South Asians in the United States, and Pawan Dhingra, founding curator of the first large-scale national exhibition devoted to the lives and pasts of Indian Americans, will discuss the goals, approaches, challenges, and reception of their respective initiatives at a moment in which South Asians have reached a new level of presence in the U.S.

Co-sponsored by: Charles Warren Center Seminar on Multimedia History & Literature

Join the Facebook event.

START
Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 04:00pm

END
Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 06:00pm

VENUE
CGIS South, S030
Harvard University

ADDRESS
1730 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02138

Thu, April 2, 2015 from 04:00pm - 05:30pm  /  CGIS South, S250

Empire from the Edges: Shi‘i and Messianic Challenges to Mughal Authority

Muslim Societies in South Asia Seminar

Samira Sheikh, Associate Professor of History; Associate Professor of Asian Studies Program; Affiliated Faculty, Islamic Studies Program; Co-Director Vanderbilt History Seminar, Vanderbilt University.

Chair: Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Director, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, Harvard University

Shi`i and messianic groups in Gujarat evolved an often uncomfortable coexistence with Mughal political authority, one that was eased by occasionally imperial diktat but was regularly punctuated by bouts of violence and repression. This seminar will examine Mughal relations with three such groups from the late sixteenth century to the early eighteenth, paying attention to local politics and raising the question of whether Akbar’s supposed “tolerance” and Aurangzeb’s assumed “bigotry” are useful frames for discussion of empire, religion, and region.

Co-sponsored with the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program

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Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 04:00pm

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Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 05:30pm

VENUE
CGIS South, S250
Harvard University

ADDRESS
1730 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA

Fri, April 3, 2015 from 04:00pm - 05:30pm  /  CGIS Knafel, K262

Language of Metaphysics, Language for Politics: Some Lessons from Allama Prabhu’s Vacanass

South Asia Without Borders Seminar

Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi, Assistant Professor of History, Karnataka State Open University.

Chair: Parimal G. Patil, Professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy, Committee on the Study of Religion, FAS, Chair of the Department of South Asian Studies

The seminar will focus on the vacanas of Allama Prabhu, the 12th century vacanākara (maker of vacanas) and mystic. More specifically, the seminar will discuss Allama’s attitude towards language, especially its ability to describe the transcendental, and his distinctive mode of composing vacanas. Allama doesn’t believe that anubhāva, the mystical divine experience, can be articulated through poetry, and thus sets up for his poetry an impossibility as its task: articulation of the inarticulable. Allama develops a distinctive style by deploying Tantric vocabulary, and by using allusive propositions.

Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi’s reading of Allama’s vacanas will center around two themes. First, what we may learn from Allama’s attitude towards language especially in presenting the transcendental through poetry? Sobhi consider this to be a particularly salient question in the context of political Hindutva, and Allama’s reluctance to use language to speak about Siva might offer us new ways of discussing religion in the political sphere. Sobhi’s second theme focuses on his use of allusive propositions as a formal method to think about the world. Unlike Nāgārjuna or Digñāga, Allama is not a formal, systematic thinker. His engagement of other Indian intellectuals and their ideas is through the vacana mode. Are there any philosophical and hermeneutical lessons in Allama’s poetry?

START
Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 04:00pm

END
Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 05:30pm

VENUE
CGIS Knafel, K262
Harvard University

ADDRESS
1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge MA 02138

    Thu, April 9, 2015 from 05:00pm - 06:30pm  /  CGIS South, S250

    The People’s Hero? Jayaprakash Narayan Reconsidered

    SAI Student Event

    Mircea Raianu, PhD Candidate, Harvard History Department; Graduate Student Associate, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs

    Benjamin Siegel, Assistant Professor of History, Boston University; former Predoctoral Fellow, Harvard Academy for Area Studies; former Graduate Student Associate, South Asia Institute

    Anand Vaidya, South Asian Studies Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard South Asia Institute; former Graduate Student Associate, South Asia Institute

    Lydia Walker, PhD Candidate, Harvard History Department; Graduate Student Associate, South Asia Institute and Weatherhead Center for International Affair

    Chair: Carolien Stolte, Niels Stensen Postdoctoral Fellow, History Department, Harvard University; Assistant Professor of History, Leiden University

    Four current and former Graduate Student Associates at the South Asia Institute and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs will present a panel on the place of Jayaprakash Narayan (1902-1979) in modern Indian and international history. A complex and elusive political thinker, J.P. was a central figure both within and outside of post-independence India. As Gandhi’s supposed political heir, he was deeply invested in Indian domestic development, the Bhoodan Movement, and land reform. As a socialist personally connected to India’s leading business houses, he played a key role in the intellectual and institutional origins of “corporate social responsibility” in the 1950s and 1960s. As a leader of the international advocacy for anti-colonial nationalism, he lent his prestige to African nationalists like Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere, and Kenneth Kaunda. As the figurehead for the student-led “J.P.” movement, he catalyzed both the 1975 Emergency and the political movements, left and right, that have marked India’s post-Emergency political landscape.

    J.P. Narayan was active in diverse, and often seemingly contradictory, contexts. There is a lack of comprehensive and synthetic scholarship on his life and work, which spanned most of India’s twentieth century. Combining cutting edge interdisciplinary projects on different facets of J.P.’s politics and anti-politics, this panel will put into conversation the many sides of J.P., generating a fruitful and invigorating discussion on the man known as Loknayak – The People’s Hero.

    Co-sponsored with the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs

    START
    Thu, Apr 9, 2015 at 05:00pm

    END
    Thu, Apr 9, 2015 at 06:30pm

    VENUE
    CGIS South, S250
    Harvard University

    ADDRESS
    1730 Cambridge Street
    Cambridge MA

    Mon, April 13, 2015 from 04:00pm - 06:00pm  /  CGIS South, S020 Belfer

    Perspectives

    Arts Initiative and Muslim Societies in South Asia Seminar

    Speaker: Rohail Hyatt, Producer, Coke Studio; actor; film composer; rock music artist; and keyboardist

    Chair: Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Director, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, Harvard University.

    Hyatt will discuss the laws of nature in contrast to the current state of global music standards. Like genetically altered food, our sense of what is considered ’musical’ seems to have been altered too. In the eastern world, music is considered to be the ’food for the soul’. Do we know what are we feeding our souls lately? Has organic music completely died, or will there be a resurgence in this field as in the case of the food industry?

    Co-sponsored with the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program

    START
    Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 04:00pm

    END
    Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 06:00pm

    VENUE
    CGIS South, S020 Belfer
    Harvard University

    ADDRESS
    1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge MA 02138

      Tue, April 14, 2015 from 06:30pm - 08:00pm  /  CGIS South, S250

      Conceptualizing The Urban Civic Realm: Insights From The Indian City

      Urbanization Seminar

      Speaker: Prem Chandavarkar, Managing Partner, CnT Architects.

      Chair: Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning and Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Design, Harvard Graduate School of Design.

      It is necessary to distinguish between ‘civic space’ and ‘public space’: the former must embrace inter-personal engagement, whereas the latter need not go beyond the spectacle of the city. The failure to adequately discriminate between the two types of space has led to a global problem: the degeneration of the urban civic realm, with public space largely reduced to the spectacle of leisure and consumption. Third places (as defined by Ray Oldenburg), which formed a strong element of civic glue, are declining as they are getting out priced in a world of globalized capital flows.

      The problem becomes specifically acute in the Indian city. Firstly, the challenge is immense: a 70% rural society is expected to transition to being over 50% urban over the next four to five decades, which amounts to over 400 million people becoming urban over this period. Secondly, there is no popular imagination of what a city truly is: the authenticity of culture is located in the village, and the city is seen primarily as a rational economic machine, perceived in terms of infrastructure rather than urbanism. And third, this transition, which has to be achieved with a speed unprecedented in history, cannot be done using the paradigms of the past for they are ecologically unsustainable at the scale of this problem.

      The call is being made to respond to this crisis by urgently strengthening the country’s capabilities for urban planning. But the land use plan, which forms a foundation of urban planning, has limited applicability. Bangalore will be used as a case study to compare the impact of land values for the smallest parcel permitted by the land use plan with median incomes of the top to bottom quintiles; the comparison showing that over 40% (a conservative estimate) of the city’s population is out priced by the land use plan. The poor have survived in the Indian city through informal systems of tenure enabled by spaces left by the limited and weak reach of urban planning. The weakness of planning exists at the levels of ideation as well as implementation, and is compounded by the large percentage of building stock that predates master planning. To now extend the reach of urban planning (as it is currently perceived) will set the country on a collision course with social conflict.

      The large gap between what current models of planning can do and the reality of the Indian urban condition raises the question of how such a partial and limited perception survives as the dominant mode of representing the city. This is because we do not see the city in terms of human rights. While we may consider human rights as fundamental, the history of universalizing rights is in its infancy, starting with the United Nation’s declaration of 1948. Formal adoption of two subsequent covenants (covering economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights) took a further 28 years, ending only in 1976.

      Rights remain abstract, and become tangible only within a spatial entity that enforces them; and the nation state has been defined as that appropriate entity. But in most cases the nation state is too complex an entity to do this effectively. It plays a role in constitutionally defining rights and setting up mechanisms for redressing their violation. But it is too distant for rights to be woven into the protocols of daily life. For this human rights must also be tangible at the level of the city and the village.

      But rights are also tied to citizenship. Our current definition of citizenship is predicated on stability in space, which exists at the level of the nation state as mobility is constrained by the rules of immigration. This cannot be done at the level of the city, for urbanism thrives on mobility. The failure to adequately consider citizenship and human rights allows inequity and exclusiveness to permeate conceptualizations of the city. One needs to develop an alternative notion of citizenship: one that is not tied so much to spatial stability, but more toward enabling capabilities for engagement in the civic realm. The lecture will end with an attempt to define a framework for this notion of citizenship – particularly in terms of the urban condition’s ability to accommodate equity, scale, legibility, freedom, flexibility, context and memory.

      An attempt to tackle the crisis that is apparent in the Indian city can become a precedent for a global re-conceptualization of the urban civic realm.

      Co-sponsored with the India GSD

      START
      Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 06:30pm

      END
      Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 08:00pm

      VENUE
      CGIS South, S250
      Harvard University

      ADDRESS
      1730 Cambridge Street
      Cambridge MA

      Thu, April 16, 2015 - Fri, April 17, 2015  /  Loeb House

      South Asia: Local Solutions with Global Impact

      Annual Symposium

      Workshops to highlight interfaculty research projects supported by SAI, and launch of the exhibit and book Mapping the Ephemeral City: Kumbh Mela 2013.

      Thursday, April 16, 2015

      10:00 – 12:00 pm: Mobile Technology to Access Healthcare Services – Case Studies from the Global South

      1:00 – 3:00 pm: Role of South Asian Arts in Education

      4:00 – 4:30 pm: Mapping the Ephemeral City: Kumbh Mela 2013 Book and Exhibit Launch

      4:30 – 5:30 pm: One Harvard: Working Across Disciplines

      Friday, April 17, 2015

      10:15 – 12:15 pm: Water and Poverty in Urban Slums

       1:15 – 3:15 pm: Mental Health and Disasters

      Symposium website and registration.

      START
      Thu, Apr 16, 2015

      END
      Fri, Apr 17, 2015

      VENUE
      Loeb House

      ADDRESS
      Loeb House, 17 Quincy Street in Cambridge, MA 02138

      Announcements


      Annual Symposium: April 16 and 17, 2015

      The 2015 Annual Symposium will bring together scholars and practitioners for a series of workshops on SAI’s ongoing research projects and see the launch of an exhibit and book on Mapping the Ephemeral City: Kumbh Mela 2013.

        Q+A with Asma Jahangir

        In an interview with SAI, Jahangir discusses women’s empowerment, freedom of expression, and Pakistan’s complicated political relationships with India and the US. Jahangir delivered the Asia Center’s Tsai Lecture on Mar. 4

          A literary colossus

          The Murty Classical Library of India hopes to introduce a vast corpus of literature, thought, and science to fresh audiences across the world. “It’s completely transformative,” said Parimal Patil, Chair of the Department of South Asian Studies and SAI Steering Committee member.

            Innovative healthcare solutions

            Read highlights from SAI’s roundtable discussion in the Bay Area on India’s healthcare system organized in collaboration with USAID and the South Asian Healthcare Leadership Forum.

              The City and South Asia Podcast: Floating on Waste Islands

              The processes of urbanization, globalization, and climate change have made traditional methods of waste management difficult for the Maldives. In this podcast, SAI talks with Krishna Matturi, recent GSD graduate, about the country’s “unique culture of waste” and its possible solutions.

                Update from the Harvard Club of Nepal

                On Feb. 10, the Harvard Club of Nepal (HCN) hosted an event in Kathmandu with two newspaper editors who discussed the current political situation in the country and the role that media could play in resolving the chaos of constitution-making. The HCN, a group of Harvard alumni, has recently been reactivated.

                  International Photo Contest Winners

                  Congratulations to Gillian Slee, Harvard College ’16, and Sara Melissa Theiss, Harvard College ’15, who were chosen by SAI as winners for the Office of International Education’s Annual International Photo Contest.

                    A US-India comeback?

                    In an op-ed for The Boston Globe, SAI Steering Committee member Nicholas Burns, HKS, explains how President Obama’s visit to India for Republic Day is an important symbolic gesture that may kickstart the revival both countries have been looking for.

                      Kashmir’s women in wait

                      “More than the political aspect, it is understanding how women cope with the phenomenon of disappearances that appealed to me as a filmmaker,” says director Nilosree Biswas in an interview with SAI on the unique culture of Kashmir.

                        The City and South Asia

                        In SAI’s second annual publication, The City and South Asia, experts from a variety of fields, at both Harvard and elsewhere, have come together to hold up a cross-disciplinary lens to urban centers in South Asia.

                          Report on the Harvard US-India Initiative Conference

                          “If yesterday’s events urged participants to immerse themselves in the world of ideas, today’s panelists gave us diverse and exceptional examples of how to apply these ideas in practice,” writes Zeenia Framroze, Harvard College ’15, about the conference.

                            Creating a better India

                            SAI recently talked to Namrata Narain, Harvard College ’15, one of the organizers of the Harvard US-India Initiative’s (HUII) Annual Conference, to learn more about how HUII is working to increase discussions on important issues by connecting young academic communities in India and the US.

                              2014 Student Grant Report

                              In 2014, SAI awarded 46 grants to students to do a variety internships and research projects in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Read first-hand experiences from students in SAI’s Grant Report.

                                Tragedy in Pakistan

                                “This is a day of deep reflection. War strategy against extremists, whether through drone strikes or carpet-bombing, must factor in the lives of children beyond collateral damage and prepare especially to protect the most vulnerable in society on both sides.”

                                  Ayesha Jalal: The Struggle for Pakistan

                                  In a SAI Book Talk on Dec. 3, renowned Pakistani historian Ayesha Jalal, Tufts University, spoke about her new book and highlighted the need for a comprehensive historical interpretation of Pakistan’s narrative and encouraged members of the audience to view the history of the country through a geopolitical lens rather than a religious one.

                                    SAI Fellowships

                                    The South Asia Institute offers several opportunities for scholars and practitioners to continue their research at Harvard University in Cambridge. Deadline to apply: January 15, 2015 for Academic Year 2015-2016.

                                      2015 Student Winter Grant Recipients

                                      SAI has awarded 18 grants to support undergraduate and graduate student projects over the Winter Session in January, 2015. These include 6 undergraduates and 12 graduate students who will be traveling to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka for research and internships.

                                        Shaping problem-solvers

                                        A Harvard Gazette article looks at SAI Director Tarun Khanna’s Gen Ed course, which spans disciplines to address social, economic challenges in South Asia.